Mock Draft Spotlight: Georgia LB Justin Houston

The dynamic pass rusher is stuck between defensive end and linebacker.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Monday, April 11th, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Categories: 2011 NFL Draft, Mock Draft Spotlight, Ryan Mink

Georgia’s Justin Houston has proven he’s a gifted pass rusher.

He logged 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a junior and seven sacks as just a sophomore in the ultra-competitive SEC.

Draft Profile: Georgia DE/LB Justin Houston
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But what else can Houston do?

That’s the question on evaluators’ minds. Does he project only as a pass-rushing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or does he have the ability to stand up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4?

Whether he can do that will largely dictate if he’s of interest to the Ravens, who CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco had selecting the Bulldog in his early-March mock draft.

Georgia switched to a 3-4 defense before Houston’s junior season and moved him to linebacker. He responded with stellar numbers.

But despite that, there seems to be mixed opinions on how versatile Houston can be at the NFL level, where outside linebackers often can’t pin their ears back and go for the quarterback, but must occasionally drop into coverage. That not only takes agility, but awareness.

Houston is an underclassmen, so there’s still some extra time to apply polish.

“I think this: instinctively as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, he might struggle a little bit on his feet,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper said. “[In a 4-3] that’s where he can shine. That’s his best spot.”

“There were some weeks where he was quiet. There were some weeks where he was dominant.”

Physically, Houston is intriguing. He’s 6-foot-3, 270 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds at his pro day, which was reportedly attended by Baltimore Linebackers Coach Dean Pees. He bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times, second-most of any linebacker at the combine.

Just looking at him, one can see he’s in prime shape.

“I came out here and showed the coaches that I was an athlete,” Houston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his pro day. “I felt like I did good on my [pass coverage] drops too. … After every drill, I sprinted an extra five yards to show them my motor.”

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